Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Blame Jason

The Twenty Most Annoying People You Meet at a Writer's Conference

Agent Aloof -- the literary agent who sits only with his authors, who act like bodyguards. Doesn't actually talk to anyone but has his authors tell everyone who tries to approach that his client list is full and he isn't looking for any new authors to rep. Wears enough pricey-spicey cologne to choke a cat. Seems to spend the entire conference on his mobile phone having muttered arguments with an editor at Tor, an editor at Kensington, the buyer at Borders, or someone named Debby.

Booze Bunnies -- the giggly attendee who parks in the middle of the hotel bar, guzzles innumerable colorful fruit drinks with little umbrellas in them, and who remains completely sauced throughout the conference. Smells of whatever drink she spilled or threw up on herself. Upscale variation: holds court in the hotel bar, swills expensive wine or scotch while extolling their virtues, which everyone else is too uneducated to appreciate.

Book of Her Heart Betty -- the older, depressed but determined attendee who lugs around the same 900 page manuscript she's been working on for the last thirty years, which she pitches to anyone who stands near her for longer than three seconds. Leaves a solid wake of Estee Lauder Youth Dew. Will try to sneak in to editor/agent appointments and crash publisher cocktail parties, but justifies this because it is, after all, the book of her heart.

Business Card Boy -- this is the attendee whose sole purpose is to nail everyone with one of the ten thousand colorful homemade business cards he brought to the conference (because a business card is a portal to instant fame, naturally.) Is sweaty all the time and smells like it. His contact info, six e-mail accounts, web site and blog URLS along with ISBNs and titles for every novel he's written or has thought about writing are printed on the card in 2 pt font that is too blurry or smeared to read.

Button & Ribbon Rack -- the gal who adorns herself with every single conference pin, ribbon, and other proof-of-attendance bauble since writer cons were invented. Usually about six feet tall and weighs more than the average grizzly; easy to hear approaching because she clinks and tinkles when she walks. If you so much as smile at her, will corner you and tell you the backstory that goes with every single one of her buttons, ribbons and baubles. Has a terrible case of halitosis. Goes ballistic if registration runs out of the freebie buttons and pins before she can nab her share.

Character Dragsters -- the writer who insists on dressing up as one of his characters, usually from a historic time period or from the distant future when apparently vividly-colored and poorly tailored polyester is the clothing of choice. Carries reproduction weapons like cheap aluminum swords, non-functional muskets, blunted or wooden katanas, etc. Affects a phony accent; usually one he thinks sounds British but is closer to that of a Southie on a bender. Is so flatulent no one can sit near him for longer than sixty seconds. When in character drag, he will not wear his conference name tag or answer to his real name.

Comp Complainer -- the lightly- or newly-published writer who expected to get everything for free, and didn't. Sulks like a wet cat and smells a bit like one, too. Bitterly complains about the massive conspiracy to insult her or ignore her genius for the duration of the conference.

Disappointment Diva -- the attendee who despises the conference, doesn't get to do any of the things she came to do, and/or was publicly snubbed by someone, all of which happened during the first five minutes of the conference. Gives off fumes like milk curdling on a low-heat hot plate. Spends the next three to five days doing nothing but whining about what she missed or writing a letter of complaint to the con committee about it. Demands but doesn't get a full refund.

Disgruntled Demi-God -- an indy celeb author who generates long lines of admirers hoping for an autograph or a kind word, but doesn't show up for half of his scheduled events or sits and scowls through them. Smells of money, cocaine, 20 year old Scotch or hair gel.

Filker From Hell -- a self-styled musician/singer/composer who dresses like a RenFaire refugee and carries at least one or more handmade musical instruments on her person. Doesn't speak but when inspired breaks into improvisational song or strumming, blowing, piping, etc. (and every improvisational song is a slightly off-key variation of Greensleeves.) Smells a bit moldy due to the damp cache of herbs in her velvet neck pouch. Becomes hostile only when someone interrupts anything before the seventeenth chorus of her current tune. Is a fan of only two authors (Rowling, Tolkien) and refuses to read anyone else as they are completely inferior.

Freebie Bag Lady -- the woman whose only mission is to get all the really good free stuff before anyone else. Haunts the goody room; only talks to authors to ask if they have any free books to give her. Carries four large empty bags with her everywhere, takes at least three of everything, and talks only about the lousy amount of freebies this year. Permeates the air around her with the fragrance of Juicy Fruit gum and Aqua-Net. Will swipe as many hardcovers as possible from the tables during the guest speaker luncheon and refuse to give them back to the other attendees they were intended for. Complains loudly about having to pay for the books at any charity signing event. On the last day, she is in a state of perpetual dismay after learning how much it's going to cost to ship her 5000 pounds of free stuff home. Leaves about half of the freebies she takes in her hotel room for the maid to toss out.

Grudge Boy -- the co-panelist who doesn't sell as well as you do or has some other reason to hate you, who doesn't answer any questions but spends the entire session attacking your answers and ridiculing your methods. Stinks of Old Spice and hand lotion. After the panel, he will then try to come up to you to say how he doesn't want you to take his criticism of everything you say, do, or think personally. If you're a woman, he'll do this while staring at your breasts.

How-to Hawkers -- the busy entrepeneur who had three books in print ten or fifteen years ago, but now apparently makes a living only by selling how-to books, devices and other info ephemera to other writers at the conference. Has an answer to every writing problem; generally the wrong answer. Radiates the scent of hot toner or lamination. Some of them have so much stock to get rid of that they drag a rolling suitcase or beverage cart around with them everywhere.

Jack the Ass -- the misguided but earnest soul who believes that cracking tasteless jokes, horsing around and disrupting workshops and panels with his witty but pointless remarks is the most effective way to promote himself and his books. Smells of firecrackers and a urinal, for obvious reasons.

Non-Writer Ninny -- a person who is not a writer, does not plan to write, and thinks all writers are asses. Marvels at how useless the conference is or how bad the workshops are. Uses too much celebrity-branded perfume and not enough deodorant. Will attend at least 200 writer conferences every year.

On the Make Artist -- the married, often balding gentleman who does not have his spouse with him as he only attends writer conferences to troll for easy one-night stands. Smells of tooth plaque and Binaca. Will hit on anyone with a pulse; generally nails at least one lonely, dumpy wannabe who falls for his schlock.

Substitute Editor -- a pale, harassed and untidy-looking junior editor, usually from a major publishing house, who was forced to attend the conference at the last minute because the senior editor didn't feel like doing it. Has no authority to acquire anything but doesn't share this information with anyone. Has a perpetual cold or migraine, or contracts both during the first hour of the conference. Walks around in an envelope of Halls cough drops, Pepto-Bismol, and Burt's Bees chapstick. Spends a lot of time at the Tiki bar by the pool pretending to read partials while she really tries to work on her tan. Doesn't want to pay for anything (and after a word with a high-ranking member of the con committee, generally doesn't.) Will agree to read anything a writer pitches and will forget these agreements the minute she steps on the plane to go home.

Two-Legged Dragon -- Militant smoker who hangs with other tobacco addicts to whine about not being able to smoke in the hotel. Every ten minutes will try to light up somewhere, and then when caught by hotel staff will claim he thought that was a designated smoking area. Will sneak half a cig while locked in a stall in a hotel common area restroom. Is constantly chewing gum, breath mints, the ends of pencils, etc. but still stinks like a wet ashtray that grew legs. Within the first day these folks find each other, bond, and set about creating a large, permanent cloud of second-hand smoke directly outside every hotel entrance and exit.

Vengeful Viper -- a more intense version of Grudge Boy; says nothing to your face and will not sit within a hundred feet of you, but spends the entire conference ridiculing your books, badmouthing you, and glaring at you from a safe distance. Smells a little like burnt electrical wiring.

Witchy Woman -- the ageing, heavily-tattooed, much-pierced goth type who dresses only in black imitation satin or velvet, sports Mr. T-style silver jewelry with at least two visible pentagrams on every part of her body that can support chains, clamps or piercings. Has the nose ring in the center, not the side, and a jumbo tongue stud. Smokes and smells so much of pot that you can get a contact high standing next to her. Wears enough black eyeliner to polish a dozen shoes. Voluntarily informs you of the color of your aura, if there's a curse on your career, and the best crystals to use to dispel writer block demons from your work space.

Feel free to add to the list in comments.

(dedicated to Jason Pinter, whose last Genreality post inspired the idea.)


  1. Ahh, glad to know I'm used to handling these types from various other types of conventions over the years. Nice to know some things are universal.

  2. Wow! I'm attending my first conference this weekend, sounds like it will be more fun than I had bargained for. I hope to be able to avoid getting roped into 20 verses of an off key fluting solo and to be able to pee without a smoker in the stall next to me. I'm too nice and always end up in situations like the first one, and just plain unlucky enough for the second. : )

  3. Okay, so I've met about half of these and I know one of the disgruntled demi-gods.

    I'm hoping I can hide from the filker, hawker, OTM artist, the dragon...uh....okay. All of them. I want to hide from all of them. I have these thing about weird smells.

  4. and to think sometimes i forget why i no longer attend writers' conferences.

  5. And that is why you're a writer.

  6. Makes me glad that I have never attended a writer's conference. Perhaps one day I will, and then I will be on the avoidance lookout.

  7. Damn. That's pretty amazing.

    I thought you didn't do conferences any more? Do you have a fantastic memory?

    I've also seen the two=one co-writers who wear their real name in small print and in huge letters "half of [author name here]" They can't finish sentences because they're so used to the other person doing that for them.

    Sometimes they separate but when you talk to just one on her own, she can't seem to pay attention to what you're saying because her listening half is missing.

  8. Moral of the story - Bathe.

  9. Wouldn't it be fun if attending the con w/ friends to take copies of the list and see who can identify all the different categories. Kinda like bird-watching. Binocualrs optional, of course...but what would the winner get...

  10. Happy to take the blame, terrific post!

  11. Heh. Now I have a post to point to when people ask me why I don't do cons anymore. :)

  12. I have met all these people and no longer go to conferences.

  13. I was scheduled to pitch at a recent conference but canceled my pitch appointment because it was the "junior editor" who had no ability to acquire anything. She pretended she did, though, because how else to get writers to buy her drinks?

  14. *snarf*

    I've never been to one of these conferences...not sure I want to, after this! lol

    (word ver: watershi -- an incomplete rabbit novel)

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  16. I just came back from my first writers conference at the Javits- an eye opener for sure -

  17. Oh goodness me, I've seen many of these people, I think it's a worldwide phenomenon.

  18. That was hilarious!

    I have never attended a writer's conference, and probably will not for the foreseeable future.

    If I ever do, I think I'd like to take a copy of this list with me.

    Thanks for the laughs :)

  19. OMG,this list is a stunner! And unfortunately, not so far removed from the truth, LOL. Thanks for provoking many screams of laughter.

  20. Hysterical and so true. Conferences are bizarre and smelly places.

  21. I've always liked most of the folks I've met at cons--writers, readers, editors, and agents. Maybe SF/fantasy cons are different than romance cons.

  22. I haven't been to a conference yet, but am considering two. I think I need to take this list. For comparative purposes of course!

    I also think I should remember never, ever to be drinking something when I read your posts like this. I need another new keyboard now...

  23. This is hilarious! Especially in the wake of BEA. Book of her Heart Betty is my favorite and the person I ran into most last weekend, especially at the writer's digest writer's convention. Multiple times I had to tell people I'm just an assistant with no authority to take on clients and still many of them kept pitching to me!

  24. Anonymous2:06 AM

    The I-have-a-question-that's-not-really-a-question-because-I'm trying-to-show-how-intellectual-I-am person who always has their hand up for the mike in the Q&A part at the writers' festivals. Sometimes these people never even get to their question, they just love the sound of their voice so much, and have an impromptu mini-essay prepared.

    My friends and I also have fun spotting the "Victims of Circus Pants" - the most outlandish, colouful outfits. (Well, this festival does take part in a hippy town)

  25. Sounds like a cast of characters for a murder mystery.



  26. These made me smile :D


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